Pam and Chris Carr pose outside the same race trailer used by Rocky Robinson when he drove the Bub streamliner. Chris has managed two world records so far with Pam's support.
Land speed racers have a passion for speed, a burning desire to be the best, and, most importantly, permission to do so by their wives. The top three “Better Halfs,” Carol Wheeler, Pamela Carr and Tricia Robinson give their take on a subject rarely talked about in racing circles: what it’s like to be married to the fastest man on two wheels…
“I met Sam the day he came home from Vietnam. I was introduced to him by a friend. This was in 1968. We didn’t get married until 1971.”
“Chris and I met in the summer of 1994 at Hagerstown, Maryland. It was my first race. I remember browsing my girlfriend's program and found a racer to cheer for. He was single, my age, and a ‘California-Boy’. After the race my girlfriend and I went into the pits. I was looking for an autograph and instead got a phone number.”
“I met my husband Rocky on the internet site, Singles.com. My boss (I work in architecture) knew him from Trials competition so I already had the upper hand.”
I asked the girls if their husband was already involved in land speed racing or any other form of racing when they met.
“Sam has always been involved in land speed racing. He was building the Norton streamliner when we met. We both went to England and worked at the Norton factory for a time.”
Carol stands by Sam’s side as they work their way to the front of the line at Bonneville.
“Chris has always been a racer. He knew he wanted to race at the age of six. When I met Chris, I was working as a Supervising Claim Approver for Prudential AARP and teaching aerobics. I quit my job of 8 years to date Chris.”
“Rocky’s land speed racing was on temporary hold when we met while Denis Manning and John Jans designed and built SEVEN, the current Bub streamliner.”
On Bonneville and their first time on the salt, their experiences varied considerably.
“My first time on the salt was like attending a big car show. I enjoyed seeing all the vehicles. Met Burt Munro and true to the movie, he was a bit of a ‘perv’.”
“My thought was FINALLY, a safe place to race. No metal guard rails, no cement walls, no wild racers bumping into you or taking you out. On the salt it's just Chris and that's fine by me. I've seen him straighten out a high speed wobble, stop safely without his parachutes and jump out of a burning bike...he's amazing and so smart.”
“After hearing all the stories, seeing pictures and visiting Denis’s (Manning) barn regularly seeing the new streamliner being built, I couldn’t wait. That was until it became a reality. In the beginning there were many bugs that needed to be worked out with Seven—like seizing motors which sent Rocky skidding across the salt on his side, or fire extinguishers discharging unexpectedly, failing parachutes, or the bike catching on fire. It definitely made things more stressful.”
On the dangers of racing at these speeds and when enough is enough…
“I’m anxious for Sam to do well, but not worried about him. He knows the danger but accepts the risk. It’s who he is. Each year we assume it will probably be our last, but new opportunities continue to arise. We assess the situation each time and decide.”
Tricia congratulates Rocky after breaking Dave Campos’ 16- year reign as world’s fastest motorcyclist. (2006)
“Each time Chris gets suited up we share a hug and kiss and I tell him to ‘have fun!’ We know and accept the dangers. If he doesn't love what he's doing and having fun while doing it, then it's time to find something new.”
“2007 was tough when Rocky crashed. I thought my worst fear had just become a reality. Then the EMTs pulled him from the wreckage and sat him down and asked some simple questions like what his name was and where he was at. When he said, ‘My name is Rocky Robinson and I’m on my ass at Bonneville,’ I knew he was alright. After breaking the record a second time in 2008 I asked him to retire and he agreed. Months past and I realized how passionate he was about the sport and that he wasn’t ready to retire. It wasn’t right for me to keep him from pursuing his dreams, just as I’m sure he wouldn’t keep me from mine. Ultimately, when he’s ready to throw in the towel I will stand by him, but until then I’m there to support him every step of the way.”
I asked what it meant for their husband at one time to be the fastest motorcyclist ever, and what it was like to lose that position.
“I felt in 2006 each team had their 15 minutes of fame. All three competitors earned the honor of being the fastest. Because Sam couldn’t back up his run he never got the official FIM title. Even though he’d set an SCTA record that was already faster than Dave Campos, the fact that it wasn’t at an FIM sanctioned event somehow trumped his accomplishment. This was a huge disappointment to Sam, but achieving the official FIM record is what keeps him going.”
Family affair on the salt: Chris Foss (Tricia’s mom), Nikki (Rocky’s niece), Tricia, Valerie (Rocky’s mom), Bernadette (brother Buddy’s girlfriend), and Kristin (Rocky’s daughter) pose on the salt near the timing tower.
“At home Chris is a regular guy; take out the garbage on Monday, dentist appointments on Tuesday, etc. That didn't change when he became the Fastest Man on Two Wheels or the seven times he became Grand National Champion. When my oldest son did a school project and told the class his dad was the Fastest Man and in the Guinness Book of Records, that's when I really felt it. After losing the record, I was sad for Chris and for my boys. They’d been carrying their Guinness Books around for a year, so proud of their dad. He's a true champion and has taught me and our sons that being a champion is not just winning.”
“Breaking Dave Campos’ record which stood for 16 years, only to have it taken away two days later left us feeling empty inside. The speeds keep increasing, making it harder each year. We are fortunate that the Top 1 Ack Attack team has managed to break the record two more times. Rocky is very passionate about piloting the Ack Attack as he is in everything he does. He’s a published author and is very serious about writing. Whatever he chooses to do he always gives 100 percent. It’s not always about being the best, but giving your best effort. In that regard, he’s already won.”
Thank you, ladies.